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This is not a blog which expresses instant opinions on current events. It rather uses incidents, books (old and new), links and papers as jumping-off points for some reflections about our social endeavours.
So old posts are as good as new! And lots of useful links!
The Bucegi mountains - the range I see from the front balcony of my mountain house - are almost 120 kms from Bucharest and cannot normally be seen from the capital but some extraordinary weather conditions allowed this pic to be taken from the top of the Intercontinental Hotel in late Feb 2020

Sunday, August 16, 2020

The Pandemic as a Warning Shot

The last post ended with a suggestion that how we behave in a crisis is a mark of our character and that all of us should feel under a moral microscope in times of crisis. A post last autumn had made the point that
Nobody seems to want to talk any more about “character” – perhaps it has shades of “self-discipline” and “self-control” when the spirit of the age continues to encourage the self to flourish?So it took some courage for David Brooks to produce in 2015 a book entitled “The Road to Character” consisting of profiles of 8 people whose life demonstrates “character” including Dwight Eisenhower, Samuel Johnson (!), George Marshall (of Marshall Fund fame), St Augustine (!), the american woman behind Roosevelt’s New Deal (Francis Perkins), the charity worker behind “The Catholic Worker” (Dorothy Day) and George Eliot, the British writer.
I idly googled the Ngram user for "character" to discover that useage of the word "character" has fallen in the past decade to almost zero!
No wonder that I followed up that post by wondering whether our social DNA was changing

Some months back I referred to a vimeo encouraging us to use lockdown to conduct more meaningful conversations . It invited us to consider the following questions -
- what we found the most difficult thing about the lockdown?
- how we reacted to it eg fears and hopes?
- what we were ”bringing” to the experience? eg characteristics/strengths
- which of a range of ”spheres” (work, family, friends, personal development, health, finances, wider community) we actually spent time on?

This was part of what was called the Adventus Initiative  which went on to consider, coming out of Covid19,
- what sort of changes (if any) we might we want to make in our priorities?
- for example in the time we devote to each of those spheres?
- what our first action would be?
In many ways, however, this reflects the privileged world which global warming should have us questioning - with both Extinction Rebellion  and Bill McKibben upping the ante

The Canadian blogger Dave Pollard has a great post today which imagines that we are almost at the end of the 21st century - with "civilisation" as we know it today having completely broken down and our lives lived in small communities - generally in primitive form of wars with one another. His "retrospective" covers 11 points - and I have selected the last three to give you a sense of his argument
9 We have had our share of crises, of course. The Great Earthquakes devastated America’s west-coast cities, though by then the big cities were already starting to be depopulated. We’ve had six pandemics that killed about 400 million people between them, though that number is highly imprecise, since the most recent ones, after the production of vaccines ceased in the third decade of the Long Depression, were uncontrolled and our information systems could no longer gather much reliable data on their impact. The latest one was extremely virulent, but since long-distance travel has pretty much ceased, its effects were severe but localized. We figure it’s likely to be like that going forward. The loss of the great forests to fire and insects has caused a whole cascade of ecological crises, as has the death of the oceans that preceded it. That has caused the hot deserts of the tropics and the cold deserts of the boreal areas to expand enormously, and they’re largely uninhabitable now, as are the semi-arid areas of western North America, central and east Asia, and southern Europe that have grown unbearably hot and have long ago run out of water.
10 And water, always our most precious resource, is now probably the biggest factor driving our population down and our continuing migrations to areas where it is still available. It was the cause of the last great wars, in the northern parts of North America and Europe, and across Asia. When the Long Depression eliminated the capacity to create and maintain pipelines to transport water long distances, those wars ended in a whimper. But with the Long Migration, even that water is in danger of running out, especially as the climate collapse worsens.
11 You might be surprised to learn that, despite not having man-made pharmaceuticals, vaccines, or hospitals, our life expectancy is about the same as it was in 2020. We apparently eat much more nutritious food than people did then — less of it, almost entirely plants, and no processed food — and we of necessity exercise more, as we live without most of the electrically-powered equipment that made lives in 2020 dangerously physically inactive. And I’m not sure why, but we seem less obsessed about dying than people back then were. Maybe it’s because we see it when it happens, whereas in 2020 it was always hidden, in institutions, behind closed doors.
The pandemic tells us, surely, that the sort of modern life we had taken so easily for granted is now over....Some aspects of normality may return - but our easy reliance on air travel, mass tourism and imports will surely reduce significantly. 
If we are to be able properly to anticipate and prepare for our new future, we will all need a strong shot of imagination ...

Resource on global warming
What is wrong with us?
Facing Extinction

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